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Dettol maker rides cleanliness drive with wet wipes

Viveat Susan Pinto  |  Mumbai 

Taking advantage of the cleanliness drive initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, British consumer goods maker RB has launched Dettol wet wipes today marking its foray into a small but growing category in India.

Wet wipes as a segment is pegged at Rs 100 crore, but growing rapidly thanks to increased adoption by urban consumers. The organised hygiene market, according to industry estimates, is pegged at around Rs 3,000-4,000 crore in size in India. Dettol, a key health & hygiene player, positioned as a germ killer, with sales estimated to be in excess of Rs 1,500 crore, has a presence across soaps, liquid handwash, hand sanitizers, bodywash, shaving creams, medicated plasters and kitchen gels besides the core antiseptic liquid, which is its original format.

RB came out with full-page print ads today announcing the new launch and positioning the wet-wipes as multi-use products that can be taken anywhere and used as a clean-up for hands, face and even a surface.

The launch interestingly has been timed with RB's Banega Swachh India campaign, which has been introduced following the government's Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan. The PM launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan on October 2.

The new Dettol extension comes a year-and-a-half after RB launched its kitchen cleaning gels taking on Hindustan Unilever's utensil cleaner Vim, a leader in the Rs 500-crore category.

HUL had dragged RB to court over this ad backing up the action with print and TV commercials that asked consumers whether they would prefer a harsh antiseptic (an indirect reference to Dettol) or the power of 100 lemons, which was the new positioning of Vim.

While RB has steered clear of any controversy in its current set of adverts, analysts expect HUL to react to it in some way.

The two are currently fighting a case in the Delhi High Court over a recent ad by HUL for Lifebuoy soap, which said that the company would offer Rs 10 crore to anyone who could prove that their product was better than its brand. RB was not granted interim relief in the matter on 29 September, when the matter came up for hearing.

Dettol, for the record, is the leader in the anti-septic liquid category with almost 80-85 per cent of the market. In soaps, however, it oscillates between number 3 and 4 after HUL's Lifebuoy and Lux and at times Wipro's Santoor. In newer categories such as handwash, hand sanitizers and kitchen gels, it wages a stiff battle with HUL's lifebuoy, which has also ventured into these spaces in recent years.

Analysts say this is the only the first part of what is expected to be a major push by these as they attempt to ride the cleanliness drive initiated by the government.

In a conversation with Business Standard, RB India's MD Nitish Kapoor said that the company would spend Rs 100 crore in the next five years, creating awareness about the importance of hygiene and sanitation, reaching out to 2,000 villages in a year, 400 of which would be targeted in the next 6-7 weeks.

"Both Harpic and Dettol would be part of this campaign where are endeavour would be to bring about behaviour change. We are doing this with multiple partners," Kapoor said.

HUL already has its handwash programme under Lifebuoy that targets schools among other areas. Last year, it announced that it would set up 24,000 toilets under the Domex Toilet Academy.

First Published: Sat, October 04 2014. 00:36 IST